The media these days create an impression that yoga is only for the young and flexible, an image that does not reflect the benefits of yoga, which are for everyone.
If you can breath, you can do yoga is one saying and indeed there is a large range of modified practices that are suitable for everyone, whatever their ability. Chair yoga is one of those modified practices.
In this post we explore the possibilities of chair based yoga, who is it for, what is it, the benefits of chair based yoga and finally the where and when and why it matters.
Anyone can practice chair based yoga, but in truth you will come across barriers to inviting able bodies to your practices.
In your classes you will instead come across students that are:
- Adults and returning to exercise after injury, or a series of treatments.
- Adults who are very overweight or obese and also experience other illness related to obesity.
- Older adults that want to remain healthy and fit through yoga.
- Those in their later years of life that seek to maintain independence.
- Adults of all ages that enjoy mostly meditation.
- Chronically ill individuals that are unable to get on the floor because of their condition (MS, ME, osteoporosis, etc).
- Less abled bodies that find transitioning to the floor hard.
- Individuals of all ages that need the chair as a prop in a general yoga class.
This very wide range of ages and abilities also means that you could be dealing with a wide range of issues across all ages
Always approach these issues without judgement, lot of respect and great empathy. Just listen and offer modifications to your students throughout your practice using the chair.
Chair Based Yoga is the practice of yoga sitting on the chair or standing by the chair. I will try and also show you some ways where the chair is used as a prop, rather than be in the heart of the practice.
Yoga asanas are adapted to a chair when a person cannot get to the floor.
The real flexibility comes by adapting poses to suit everyone’s’ abilities, including seniors and those less mobile.
The Why – Benefits of Chair Based Yoga
Chair based yoga is still yoga, and it still offers the same benefits as “regular” mat based practices, without the need to get on the mat.
It is more likely though that the “audience” you will attract to your practices are older, or are suffering from an injury or chronic illness.
For those people the mat is a long way down and often a very scary place to go to, in the event that they may not come back up again. By practicing on the chair ofc you are removing those barriers.
Once those barriers are removed the practitioner can enjoy all the regular yoga benefits: better sleep, better breathing patterns, increased mobility, flexibility, strength, physical awareness, posture, energy, pain management, etc…. The list is very very long.
By adapting yoga, using the chair we are empowering yogis. We are giving them techniques and tools to improve themselves. Especially for those that may have experienced a fall and their confidence is shaken.
The Where and When
WHERE: Chair based yoga is suitable when the space is limited (eg. In an office or classroom), care homes, offices, rehab centres, sheltered housing, hospitals etc.
WHEN: it is suggested that when working with older adults or those with a long term illness, practice takes place mid-morning to lunch time. Often people in sheltered housing rely on their carers to get dressed and fed OR activities are affected by medication.
A Social Opportunity
Be mindful that because of the demographics you will be most likely dealing with, you will be creating an opportunity to socialise.
Teaching chair based yoga is not like a regular yoga class in a gym, or studio.
The people that will come to your classes will have to potentially make special arrangements to attend.
Some are faced with social isolation and little other opportunities to interact and therefore will want to talk… let them
Hold space for them to interact, share and reflect. This is as important as the asana and meditation.
Be open to the possibilities of what your classes will bring beyond the physical relief.
It is truly rewarding to teach chair based yoga to these people and the most satisfying part of my job.